LIVINGSTON COUNTY – The cases against two people accused of murdering a roomate and burning her body in Caledonia will return to court for more arguments than were expected.
Aykut Ozkaynak, 36, and Mary Neverett, 43, are both charged with felony Murder in the Second Degree and felony Tampering with Physical Evidence. The hangup is about search warrants in each case, whether they were properly applied for by law enforcement, and whether Judge Dennis Cohen should grant hearings to evaluate whether the warrants were valid.
“In order to even get these search warrants, they [the prosecution] had to allege that she [Neverett] was a resident there,” said Lindsay Quintilone, Neverett’s attorney. “It automatically gives standing to my client to challenge that.”
“This is not only about the idea that the search warrants were submitted without probable cause, but also that they were over-broad,” said Sessler, Ozkaynak’s attorney. “The warrant said that investigators could seize ‘anything that may have some sort of biological material on it.’ That, on its face, is over-broad. […] Apparently officers were told to ‘fill in background material.’ Unless sworn or recorded, this material would be improper. Was that off-the-record information passed from the investigators to the judge as part of the application for search warrants?”
McCaffrey argued that allowing the defendants to challenge these warrants would set a bad precedent and furthermore that the defense is not entitled to further hearings to determine if the search warrants were valid.
“This would set a precedent that every search warrant that comes before your Honor, attorneys can challenge,” said District Attorney Greg McCaffrey. “This is a wild fishing expedition to try to get a trial before we have a jury.”
The attorneys conferenced the cases with Judge Dennis Cohen for over an hour before saying this on the record Thursday.
Ultimately, McCaffrey agreed to turn over copies of all of the search warrants for both cases to the defense, adding that this is merely a courtesy as he has already done so. He also cited case law for the record to suggest that neither defendant is entitled to hearings on these warrants.
“Just to protect the record, Mr. Sessler has everything that the court has. The People do not oppose hearings where sworn facts are alleged,” said McCaffrey. “According to People v. Dunn, defendants who raise issues of law, not issues of fact, are not entitled to these hearings.”
Cohen said that he will issue a decision on whether or not to hold hearings on the warrants.
“The court will issue a supplemental decision,” said Cohen. “This case will be expedited. We will prioritize this and will get a decision to you shortly.”
Six members of the public watched Thursday’s court proceedings for Ozkaynak and Neverett. One cried quietly while another gently put their hand on her shoulder.
In May, both Quintilone and Sessler challenged whether their clients’ statements would be admissible at a possible trial.
Ozkaynak and Neverett were arrested on July 7, 2016 by New York State Police for felony Murder in the Second Degree and Tampering with Physical Evidence for allegedly killing Patrice Miller, 64, and burning her body in Caledonia on the night of July 4, 2016.
They were located at a Motel Six near their apartment in Gates.